The drug is labeled MPDL3280A and manufacturer Roche calls it "great news for lung cancer patients."
The unusual news comes from the drug seeming to be more effective against lung cancer in patients who smoke rather than those who never have.
Reuters reports early clinical trials show tumor reduction of 26% in smokers as compared to just 10% of non-smokers.
The lead researcher on the project excitedly said "bingo, this is the first targeted agent that shows more activity in smokers than in non-smokers."
Work shows the drug targets a protein tumors use to rearrange T-cells in the immune system called PD-L1.
When those cells are “turned off” tumors grow.
But MPDL3280A blocks PD-L1 allowing the T-cells to go back to work attacking the cancer and shrinking tumors.
Other drug companies like Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb are busy working on similar drugs, while Roche investigates to see if the current agent might be useful against other forms of the disease.